RCMP used pigs in crowd control tests
Force wanted to find 'less lethal' way to subdue protesters

The Ottawa Citizen 01/14/03: Jim Bronskill

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The RCMP has tested weapons designed to control rowdy protesters by firing them at pigs.

Newly obtained documents show the Mounties carried out laboratory experiments on the animals to evaluate special, "less lethal" ammunition intended to inflict pain or temporarily disable a person without killing him.

The test results were submitted to the RCMP's Public Order Unit, set up two years ago to study and devise new means of policing large demonstrations.

The study and related memos, released to the Citizen under the Access to Information Act, shed light on the unit's research program and the lengths to which the police force has gone to prepare for massive public rallies mounted by the antiglobalization movement.

The experiment, performed in May 2001 at the RCMP's forensic laboratory in Regina, involved two freshly killed pigs and one live pig. They were used because their tissue somewhat resembles that of humans.

"We have conducted extensive research and testing to find crowd-control methods that are effective, and ensure the greatest degree of safety possible for both the public and the police," said Cpl. Benoît Desjardins, an RCMP spokesman. "And I would say that's probably why tests were made on animals."

The two pigs killed for the tests were shot through the head with conventional bullets, the most humane way to take their lives, Cpl. Desjardins said. Throughout the tests, the animals were handled following a code of ethics established by the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, he added.

"The number of animals that were euthanized were the minimum that we could for this test to be conclusive."

For the experiment, conducted by two RCMP experts and a Florida trauma specialist, the 90-kilogram pig carcasses were chained to the front loader of a tractor and raised about 1.5 metres off the ground. Several aim spots were then drawn on the pigs with a marker pen.

Shotguns were used to fire the 12-gauge ammunition, 12-gauge ammunition, known as sock rounds, at the various spots. The projectiles, essentially small socks filled with lead shot, were fired at different velocities. The higher the velocity, the more likely they were to penetrate the carcasses.

The live pig, which was fired on twice, merely shook his leg after being shot in the thigh and "didn't even squeal," the study says.

The investigators noted a lack of evidence that inflicting pain by firing rounds is an effective means of control. "We suggest that diversion of attention, surprise, deception (made to think they are being shot with real bullets), and confusion are far more likely than pain to cause compliance."

The authors concluded the sock rounds were less likely to cause damage than square bean-bag rounds, long used by police and responsible for several deaths. But, they recommended the manufacturer reduce the average velocity of the sock rounds to make them safer. At least one person hit with a sock round at close range has died.

But the investigators also expressed concern that widespread use of such less-lethal weapons would result in more police deaths at the hands of better-armed opponents.

"The trend seems to indicate that police are trying to find more applications for the use of less-than-lethal impact projectiles," the study says. "We think that expanding their use will inevitably cost more officer lives."

Despite the reservations, the RCMP believes sock rounds are "the best tool to address situations involving aggressive demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails or the individual holding police at bay with a sharp-edged weapon," according to one internal note. "The round is accurate and provides both the suspect and the police officer a measure of safety."

The RCMP approved use of sock-round ammunition shortly after the lab tests, issuing it to officers assigned to patrol the meeting of G20 finance ministers in Ottawa in November 2001, Cpl. Desjardins said. RCMP notes say about 15 Canadian police services were using such rounds as of late 2001.

At the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April 2001, the RCMP fired plastic bullets at unruly demonstrators. Officers consider the plastic ammunition expensive and not very effective, the notes suggest.


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